High Heels are NOT Healthy

Although shoes have been worn for thousands of years for the main purpose of protecting feet from the environment, recent studies have implicated shoes as the principle cause of forefoot disorders in females.

The oldest depiction of a heeled shoe comes from Mesopotamia – and in this part of the world we also find the first institutions making provisions for mental disorders.

duct tape high heel shoes ~ blog

High heel shoes date back to pre-Christian times. Egyptian butchers wore high heels to raise them above the carnage, and Mongolian horsemen had heeled boots for gripping their stirrups firmly.

The first recorded year heels were worn for vanity was 1533, when Catharine de Medicis brought heels from Florence to Paris for her marriage to the Duke d’Orleans. The style was immediately set forth by ladies from the French court.

In our society, women generally choose shoes that are not good for their feet to walk around in on a daily basis. About 80 percent of Western women report foot pain. Women are their own worse enemies when it comes to foot problems. Over 90% of foot problems in women are self-imposed and related to foot gear.

Most women will buy a shoe that does not fit comfortably, simply because they like how the shoe looks on the foot. Most women admit high heels make their feet hurt, but they tolerate the discomfort in order to look taller, stylish, and more professional.

The most beautiful shoes are not necessarily the one that are the best for our feet.

In 2000, more visits to physician’s offices were made for musculoskeletal conditions than for any other reason. Approximately 13 million visits were made to physicians offices due to foot, toe, and ankle problems in 2000.

Shoes have been implicated as being responsible for the majority of foot deformities and problems that physicians encounter in women. More than 90 percent of foot surgeries in America are performed on women.

Americans (mostly women) spend an estimated $2 billion a year on surgery related to footwear. Women have about 90 percent of the nearly 800,000 annual surgeries for neuromas, bunions, and “hammer toes”.

Matching the shape of the shoe to the shape of the foot would cut the number of injuries.

The first human being stood upright about 1 million years ago. The unshod foot seems to have had minimal problems. Throughout history, members of human societies have gone barefoot, and those societies seemingly had a low incidence of foot deformities and pain.

Initially shoes were made in the shape of the foot and were sandals. Over time, shoes became decorative items and symbols of status and vanity. As the shape of shoes changed, they became deforming forces on the foot and the source of pain.

The problem with most women’s shoe styles is that they all are more narrow than a bare foot, and the front of the shoe is tapered, which forces the toe joints to buckle.

Hammertoes are about six times more common in females than in males. At least 85% of elective surgery for bunions, hammertoes, and neuromas are performed on female patients. Bunions are hereditary, but they can get aggravated when trendy shoes and heels are worn.

The average person takes 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day. Most people take their feet for granted. Early signs of poor foot care include corns, calluses, toenail pain, foot fungus, and swelling.

Humans are plantigrade animals, which means that we stand on the whole foot, and not just on the ball of the foot or the toes. The wearing of high heels causes several delirious effects. The lumbar flexion angle decreases significantly as heel height increases. This not only creates a more unstable posture because of the increase in the height of the center of body mass but also creates additional compressive forces in the lower lumbar spine because of the change in the lumbar lordosis. In addition, there is a compensatory increase in erector spinae activity to maintain the abnormal posture. All these effects can significantly increase discomfort and fatigue in those wearing high heels especially at work, which explains the frequent complaints of low back pain.

Wearing high heels leads to changes in load distribution beneath the foot and can be detrimental to foot structure. In general, people carry approximately four to six times their body weight across the ankle when climbing stairs or walking on steep inclines. A 2-½ inch high heel can increase the load on the forefoot by 75%. Walking in these shoes will change your gait pattern, which can affect your legs and back. Such longer term conditions as arthritis in the toe and ankle joints can be exacerbated by excessive wearing of high heels.

Doctors of Podriatric Medicine see no value in high heels (generally defined as pumps with heels of more than two inches). They believe them to be biomechanically and orthopedically unsound, citing medical, postural and safety faults of such heels.

Research indicates a host of physical problems associated with high heels, including foot pain, foot deformities, a change in back posture, knee osteoarthritis and balance impairment. Clinical research has showed that the height of a heel directly impacts the lumbar spine as well as other parts of the body. High heels may contribute to knee and back problems, shortening of calf muscles, increase the incidence of fall injuries, and also cause enough changes to their feet to impair proper function.

Women with a higher arched foot have more tolerance for a higher heel. However, there are consequent negative side effects, such as sprained ankles, lower back pain, due to increased spinal curvature, and leg pain, due to added weight placed on the toes, shortened Achilles tendon, decreased stride length, and others changes walking speed and mobility and even, potentially, an increased predisposition toward degenerative osteoarthritis in the knee.

Wearing high-heeled shoes results in load shifting from the heel region towards the central and medial forefoot. Increases of pressures up to 40% are common in the foot. Subjects who are vulnerable for high pressures such as diabetics and rheumatoid arthritis should be discouraged from wearing high-heeled shoes.

Three-inch heels are dangerous. They throw the body off balance and boost the risk of a fall. With higher shoes, your feet tend to slip forward. Such common maladies as bunions or hammertoes are accelerated by ill-fitting or excessively high heels.

Mid-heels or heel that are between 2 and 2½ inches with regular soles (no greater than a quarter of an inch) should be treated like high heels. Mid heels have the same effect as high heels do in every way, only milder.

Low-heeled shoes provide greater stability, more protection for the feet, and greater comfort. Surprisingly, flat shoes are not the ideal for overall foot and leg health. Low heels of one-half to three-quarters of an inch are optimal for both the front and back of the foot.

Several authors have reported the harmful effects of shoe wear and the greatest factor is a shoe that is improperly fit. There are technically 28 measurement points on the foot, but most people don’t take the time to get fitted properly.

Studies show that 88 percent of American women cram their feet into shoes that are too small, too narrow, too pointy, with heels too high. 90% of women wear shoes that are at least a size-and-a-half too small. One study found almost 90 percent of women were wearing shoes that were smaller than their feet, by an average of one half inch.

Wedging feet into too-small shoes can lead to all manner of foot-related problems such as hammertoes, corns and bunions. If the shoe is too small, the foot pronates, or rolls over, against the ground. The longer the foot is in this confined space, the greater the chance for problems to occur.

Women’s shoes tend to be narrow in the forefoot, cramping the toes and causing bunions. Dress shoes, in particular, cause the most problems for women. Women commonly complain that their shoes are too loose in the heel. So a shoe that fits in the back of the foot might be to tight in the front.

A stable heel is also important to the well-being of the foot and ankle. Common high heel injuries include sesamoiditis (inflammation and swelling), neuromas (nerve damage), metatarsalgia (pain in the ball of the foot). Less frequent but all too common high heel-related injuries include ankle sprains and even bone fractures of the foot.

Older women have more trouble with their feet than younger ones; fat pads on the bottom of the feet tend to deteriorate in the aging process. As a person ages, their feet continue to get longer and wider. It also loses the fat pads that provide cushioning. All of these factors lead to a change in shoe size a person gets older, yet most people continue to buy a standard size forever.

Women should vary the kinds of shoes they wear.

Experts say the best shoes for women may be: a walking shoe with ties (not a slip on); a Vibram type composition sole; a relatively wider heel, no more than a half or three-quarters of an inch in height.

While shoes with wrap-around-the-ankle straps are hot stuff this spring, ankles wrapped in Ace bandages are decidedly not. Wearing of high heels should be avoided. Foot pain is not normal.

walks in your shoes ~ blog


  • Wear shoes that are comfortable and feet your feet properly.
  • Place cushion supports in your shoes for additional comfort and support.
  • Exercise regularly to strengthen muscles, ligaments and tendons in your feet and ankles.
  • Stretch your leg and calf muscles daily.
  • See a physician if you are experiencing persistent foot and ankle problems.